Krysten Swindells

3 February 2017

5 lessons in year one as a freelance copywriter

Oh So Coco is off to a flying start…

There’s no denying that going it alone and delving into the unknown self-employed world takes a huge amount of courage, tenacity and faith in oneself.

But for me, I knew I loved copywriting, had enough experience to know I was good at it and knew that if I was to have that oh-so-craved work/family-life balance then it was the only real direction for me.

Following my maternity leave I initially began a two-day working week and after six months was working three to four days. I took a huge leap of faith and boy has it paid off.

My first challenge?

Building up a client base.

Scrap that, finding a client! Just one.

I decided to give myself three months to do this before needing to earn any real cash.

I thought I would spend my time prettifying my home office, perfecting my website, hitting all the local networking events and building up a blog library. But within two weeks of launching I had my first client approach me – it was time to get copywriting! There was little time for the rest.

My first discovery?

Karma is everything.

Almost all of my clients have come from a recommendation or from a contact that has never worked with me, has no idea whether I’m any good at this writing malarkey, but had met me at some point and liked my positivity and honesty (their words, not mine).

What goes around, comes around and I’ve always had the belief that helping others out, having a strong work ethic and being a people-person are as good a skills as any.

My first ‘no’

Deep breath and… “no”. My first real “no” to a client was filled with anticipation, all-night worry and a touch of anxiety that I might lose this client for good. But when something isn’t achievable – whether it be too-tight a deadline, it’s against your moral or professional integrity or they want a cheeky (and I mean cheeky!) discount – sometimes you just have to say no.

Saying ‘no’ can be hard for a people-pleaser.

Having your own professional boundaries is an integral part of being self-employed.

My first cringe?

Chasing payments.

Gah. I hate having to chase a payment.

A survey carried out on over 1,500 Brits by Carphone Warehouse in April 2016, found that 45% of Brits say it’s “just not the British way” to ask for things and the second most cringe-worthy question was “can you pay me back please?”

Luckily, I don’t have to do it too often, but often enough.

Whilst sometimes it might be small amounts, it’s still my time and my money. As much as I love doing what I do, bills still need to be paid.

My first freelance epiphany

You just gotta roll with it.

There are some slow weeks, the panic moments when you wonder if you’ll ever hear from a client again or if you’re really any good at this copywriting after all.

Then you get some crazy-ass busy weeks where you’re juggling your life and spinning far too many plates but the buzz is worth it.

After a year in business I pretty much know how to embrace them both. I enjoy the slow weeks and catch up on crucial business admin and development, hell, even have a day off to spend with my toddler – that’s the beauty of working for yourself. The flexibility is ideal for a working mum.

Year 2 and beyond

Moving into my second year I have more confidence, know-how and experience. I have some new clients on my books, exciting projects in the mix and some very exciting Oh So Coco business goals. Without a doubt there will be plenty more challenges and learnings along the way… just watch this space…

Can Oh So Coco help you?

Do you need help with your copywriting and communications? Get in touch to find out how Krysten Swindells can help you talk to your customers not any old way, but the right way.


What do you think?

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Matthew Drzymala

February 7, 2017 at 1:57pm

Thanks for this. I’m going to go freelance within the next 12 months and I am petrified. I’ve had one client, through my current tutor and I’m starting to build my website.

Anna Whitehouse

March 3, 2017 at 7:30pm

Great post thanks! I’ve been freelancing for 16 months with no previous copywriting experience! I was writing a few magazine articles before when my daughter was younger, then just spotted an advert and I’ve pretty much been trained on the job by very patient but very honest editors!
I wish I’d known about the job when I was starting out!

PRO

Mary Whitehouse

June 6, 2017 at 10:50am

This is all very true. I’ve been freelancing for years now and it’s a great way to combine working with raising a family. Your point about Karma is the most important, in my experience. People like to work with people who are helpful, honest and understand their goals. There are lots of good copywriters out there but there are also lots who are completely up themselves and a pain in the behind to work with. Fortunately for us, they tend to be working in agencies that encourage that type of attitude! I’ve never yet met a client who actually likes it. Form a good relationship with clients and think ahead of the brief and they’ll keep coming back to you.